MARKED (Knight’s Academy #2)
by Emerald Barnes
About The Hunted:
Myka Williams has been forced out of Knight’s Academy and is on the run, constantly moving to keep the vampires off her trail until Preston’s venom is no longer coursing through her veins. But she isn’t alone.
Brent Jacobson is her protector, training her and teaching her how to be the werewolf she’s destined to be. He’s annoying, stubborn—and hot. But there’s something he isn’t telling her.
Myka has to come face-to-face with the truth of who she really is. Will she find safety, or will she always be hunted?
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About Emerald Barnes:
Emerald Barnes resides in a small town in Mississippi and has the accent to prove it. She’s an auntie, a youth leader, a Whovian, a little bit of a nerd, a reader, a writer, and a family-oriented person. God is number One in her life, and she thanks Him continuously for His love and favor. She’s addicted to tv and binge-watching shows, and she has a thing for superheroes.
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Emerald is available for personal appearances and interviews.
Preston had been hot on their trail for two months now. The werewolves hoped the venom would be out of her system soon. Apparently, Preston had been filling her full of it since she’d first been assigned to him. It bothered her that she hadn’t known what he was doing, and even now, the memories weren’t accessible. The only memory she had left of one of his bites was when he’d kidnapped her and tried to make werewolf/vampire babies with her. For all she knew, they still planned on capturing her and using her for exactly that, and that’s why she had to go on the run with Brent. There was something he wasn’t telling her, though. She had gathered that much, but Brent wouldn’t let on to the real reason he had run away with her. It had something to do with her birthmark, though he never opened up about it.
The worst part about being on the run was not knowing when—if ever—she’d be able to see the people she cared about most. She had to leave everyone behind: Jilly, Barry, and Olivia. Milo. What was worse, she had to leave a stupid letter about running away because she was adopted. She couldn’t care less about that. Barry and Jilly were her parents.
And then there was Milo. He knew the truth, but it didn’t matter. Myka knew they couldn’t be together. He was a hybrid; she was a werewolf. It wouldn’t work no matter how much she wanted it to. She exhaled slowly and closed her eyes.
Brent’s phone rang, distracting her from her pity-party. She stood from the bed and wondered if she should pick it up or not. Brent would be angry if she did. She walked to it, knowing that she should let it go to voicemail, but when she saw who was calling, there was no way she could ignore it.
“Hello,” she said, her voice shaking and her heartbeat pounding in her ears.
“Myka?” Milo whispered her name, and tears stung her eyes. “How are you?”
“I’m fine.” Ugh, that was lame, she thought. She was far from fine.
He hesitated before asking, “Where’s Brent?”
“In the shower. You want me to get him?”
“No. I’ll call back.”
She nodded, fully aware that he wouldn’t be able to see her, but she couldn’t speak. All the emotions she’d been holding back wanted to burst out right then, and she wanted to say so much. I miss you was on the tip of her tongue, but she couldn’t say the words. It made everything seem too final.
“Myks, you still there?” he asked.
“Yeah.” She wiped away a tear rolling down her cheek. She refused to cry. “How’s Liv?”
“She’s good. Fighting mad that you left.” Milo laughed, and she had forgotten how much she’d missed hearing it. She could almost see the rare smile of his, the one he had around her and no one else.
“Will you tell her that I’m sorry?” Myka asked.
“Who did you call?!” Brent’s angry voice made her jump. She turned around to see Brent, soaking wet and in nothing but a towel.
“No one. Milo called. I just answered.”
Myka put her hand on her hip, frustrated at the way Brent was acting. He held out his hand, and she placed the phone in it.
“What do you want, bloodsucker?” Brent asked, annoyance heavy in his tone.
Myka stared at Brent, her frustration faded as she watched his chest move up and down with each breath he took and how the water dripped off his body. The man was ripped. He was probably around six-foot-three and around 220 pounds of pure muscle. His abs were well defined, extremely well defined. She turned her head away as a hot blush burned her cheeks.
Brent swore, and Myka turned back to face him, curiosity and fear coursing through her. His body was the last thing on her mind at that moment. His eyes narrowed as he watched her, and she hoped that anger wasn’t directed at her.
“Thanks for calling,” Brent said before hanging up the phone and tossing it on the bed.
“Why did you answer?” he asked, his anger rising.
“I wanted to talk to him.”
Myka wasn’t backing down from Brent. She didn’t regret her decision. Well, not much, at least.
“I told you that life is over. Stay away from him.”
Brent stormed back into the bathroom, and Myka jumped as he slammed the door. Hot tears rolled down her cheeks, and she buried her face in her hands. Something was going on at the academy, and Brent hadn’t told her what. Was Olivia okay?
When Brent came back out, he had put on his jeans and t-shirt, but his hair was still a wild mess. He looked sexy, but she pushed that thought aside, focusing on her anger at him.
“You should never answer my phone again. What if that hadn’t been Milo? What if it had been Preston instead?” Brent ran his hands through his wet hair, making it stand on end.
Myka was about to go off on him about how he wouldn’t let her talk to Milo and that’s all she wanted, but he interrupted her.
“Stop thinking about how much you miss that bloodsucker and get over him. He’s not good for you, Myka. I don’t know why you can’t see that!” He paused and paced the tiny space between her bed and the bathroom. “I’m just trying to protect you.” His last words were barely a whisper.
“I know. Thank you,” she whispered, matching his tone. She knew everything he had risked for her, but she didn’t like being told who she could and couldn’t talk to.
“Just be careful, kid. We can’t lose you to them.” Brent walked to Myka and leaned close to her face. Her breath caught when he wiped away the tears on her cheeks. “You’re too important.”
She searched for the spare key that they always kept under the mat. Not the safest place, but Jilly was certain no one would find it there. Myka shook her head at the thought but was thankful that Jilly hadn’t changed her mind about it. She unlocked the door and pushed it open as quietly as she could. She shut the door just as quiet and let her eyes adjust to the darkness.
She took in a deep breath. The air smelled of fresh linen; Jilly’s choice of fragrance. She liked the idea that a home could smell like fresh laundry. Myka basked in the scent, and tears formed in the corners of her eyes. She didn’t realize how much she’d missed that smell.
A fast puff of breath rushed from her lungs when someone pushed her against the door. The knob pushed into her back, taking her breath from her and burning the muscles as she was pushed harder against it.
“It’s me! It’s me!” she cried when she found her voice.
A light came on, and she saw Barry, hair disheveled, staring back at her with a confused expression on his face. She doubled over, catching her breath when he let her go. Jilly was by her side, rubbing her back, and telling her that it would be all right.
“Myka, sweetie. I thought I’d never see you again,” Jilly said through sobs.
“I didn’t think I’d ever see y’all again either,” Myka answered, straightening herself.
Myka’s back ached, but she didn’t mind. Relief flooded through her, knowing that they were still okay. She threw her arms around Jilly and cried onto her shoulder.
“I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry,” she blubbered.
“You have nothing to apologize for,” Jilly said. “You’re home now.”
Myka didn’t want to ruin the moment by telling them that she couldn’t stay. Brent would come looking for her as soon as he woke up, and he would follow her trail back here. She needed to be back before he woke.
“I’ll make some coffee. Looks like we’re all gonna need it,” Barry said.
Myka ran her hand through her hair when Jilly let her go. She didn’t stop to think about what she looked like. She didn’t want them worrying about her, and if she was haggard in appearance, Jilly would question her. She hadn’t thought far enough ahead to know what to say to them. She just wanted to check on them.
Myka looked around the small kitchen and dining room they stood in. It had just been a few months since she left for Knight’s Academy, but it felt like it had been years. She took a seat on one of the chairs at the table. She felt weary. From her run, from her life with Brent. She was tired, and she wanted to make this place home again.
“When was the last time you ate?” Jilly asked, ever the concerned mom.
“I had supper,” Myka answered, thinking about the sad excuse for dinner Brent had made up. Snack cakes and potato chips.
“You look skinny. Have you been able to eat?” Jilly continued to fuss over her.
Myka nodded. She needed time to think because she knew the next question would be where she had been.
Barry stood at the coffee pot, watching it spit and sputter out the last drops of coffee. Steam rose in the air, and the entire kitchen filled with the scent of the hot coffee.
Barry poured each of them a mug and set them on the table. Myka blew on the hot liquid, as she held the mug in her hands, letting the warmth flow through her. Barry took a seat, and she could feel them watching her. She couldn’t meet their eyes. Not when so much was left unspoken.
“So are we just gonna ignore the elephant in the room?” Barry asked.
Jilly answered first. “He’s right, Myka. Where have you been? Why haven’t you called?”
“I just haven’t had the time,” she answered, still staring at the hot coffee in her hands.
“You haven’t had the time to tell your parents where you’ve been? That you were alive?” Barry said, his voice raising.
“I’m sorry,” she whispered. “I never meant to hurt you.”
“But you did,” he said, ripping her heart in two.
Tears slid down her cheeks again, and she wiped them away.
“I know saying I’m sorry isn’t enough.” She braved a look at them, and it only hurt her more. “But, please believe me when I tell you that I didn’t mean for this to happen.”
“What does that even mean?” Jilly asked. Concern choked her voice. “What aren’t you telling us?”
Myka shook her head. She didn’t need to bring this up. She couldn’t. To keep from having to speak, she took a drink of her coffee. The hot liquid burned her tongue, but she swallowed it down anyway.
She braved another look at her parents. It was now or never. She could tell them the truth. Tell them everything that was going on in her life. She wanted to, so she took in a deep breath, about to speak the words, but then shut her mouth. They would throw her into the psychiatric ward at the hospital. They wouldn’t believe in werewolves and vampires. They especially wouldn’t believe that she was a werewolf.
“There’s nothing to tell,” Myka said. “I ran away to find my real parents.”
“And how’s that going?” Barry asked.
Myka looked at him. He crossed his arms over his chest and stared her down. She looked away. That look made her want to divulge every little detail from the very beginning.
“Not as well as expected.”
“Mmm-hmm. I see,” he said.
He didn’t believe her.
“I need to go,” she said, standing. “This was a mistake.”
“Wait,” Jilly said. “You can’t go.”
“I have to.”
Myka walked around the table, toward the door, but Barry stood in front of it, blocking her escape.
“You’re lying, Myka. I always know when you’re lying,” he said.
“You know nothing about me,” she said. “You never had anything to do with me.”
Grief welled up in his eyes, and she felt horrible.
“I know more than you think.”
She sat down in the nearest chair, absorbing his words. “What are you talking about?”
This conversation was taking a toll on her. She just wanted to make sure that they were still alive. That was all.
“Myka, I have to tell you something,” Barry said.
Barry’s eyes narrowed like he was remembering something that happened a long time ago. Jilly placed a hand on her shoulder. Myka fidgeted in her seat as anxiety rose up inside of her. She stared at Barry, waiting for him to speak.
“I’m your dad,” he blurted out.
“I know. You adopted me.”
“No. I mean that I’m your real dad. Your mother passed away right after she had you.”
Myka stood and faced Jilly. Jilly’s lips were pursed, and her eyes watered. He was telling the truth. She fell into the chair again.
“Why didn’t you tell me this before?” Myka’s voice rose an octave.
“We didn’t think it would help. Jilly adopted you, and that’s what you overheard.”
“But I’m your daughter? By blood? You should have told me.”
“I know. I just—there was too much at stake,” he stammered.
“Jilly, what is he talking about?”
Myka turned to Jilly. She needed answers. Now.
“Because of what your mom was, and because of what we think you are now,” Jilly said.
They knew. They knew she was a werewolf.